/ 12 June 2008

Mti’s drunken-driving case thrown out of court

Chief security officer for the 2010 Soccer World Cup Linda Mti was acquitted on drunken-driving charges in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

”It is quite clear to me that there is absolutely no evidence against the accused,” said Magistrate Mpela after the defence and state had closed their cases.

Earlier the state tried to get a postponement because one of their witnesses — the driver of the car Mti allegedly drove into — was not in court.

State prosecutor Mabuse Monareng said the witnesses’ employer would not release him because they needed him at work.

However, he could not explain to the magistrate why they did not subpoena him or why they had only taken a statement from him two days ago.

Mti was facing charges of driving under the influence of liquor as well as reckless or negligent driving relating to a car accident in Sandringham, Johannesburg, in 2006.

Mpela said the state’s conduct was ”very prejudicial, unprofessional and unfair. It leaves much to be desired on [revealing] the competence of the state to deal with the matter”.

Earlier, the state called one witness to the stand, Captain Wilson Letsoala, who had attended the accident scene.

Letsoala claimed that Mti allegedly smelt of alcohol and staggered when he walked.

The defence found out that this was the captain’s first drunken-driving case — a fact they alleged indicated he did not have the expertise to provide sufficient evidence of alleged drunkenness.

Defence lawyer BR Tokota said Letsoala’s observations were ”afterthoughts which have been fabricated to prove the case”.

In explaining his decision to acquit Mti, Mpela said there had not been a prima facie case with evidence of driving and drunkenness and the state had not indicated what circumstantial evidence there might be.

Therefore, his decision was to discharge Mti, said Mpela.

At the time of the accident, Mti was the chief of prisons. He resigned shortly after his arrest.

Outside court on Thursday, Tokota told reporters: ”My client feels very happy and he feels relieved. The case went in his favour because there was no evidence of drunkenness or other charges against him”.

He said Mti had been worried about the case as it had gone on for two years.

”It was hanging on him,” he said. – Sapa